Denver Cultural Meetup at the Compassionate Dharma Cloud Monastery

Denver Cultural Meetup at the Compassionate Dharma Cloud Monastery

Yesterday I hosted a cultural meetup at the Compassionate Dharma Cloud Monastery in the Mountains above Morrison, Colorado. The monastery is the hub of the Vietnamese Buddhist community of that area.  We attended the “Day of Mindfulness” that is held on a monthly basis. I was taken aback by the energy of the place. The building, although not entirely impressive, is very peaceful and welcoming.

First, before entering, I was instructed to remove my shoes. I then entered a library/sitting area where people gathered and sipped tea throughout the day. I noticed many statues of Buddha in his/her various forms or aspects that decorate the area. The Abbot of the monastery greeted me and warmly invited me into the main meditation area. When I entered the room, I noticed large windows that allow a healthy amount of light to enter the hall. Huge golden statues of Buddhas, plants and flowers, and fruit were laid out on the “altar.” I was invited to take a meditation cushion/pillow and find a seat on the floor. The rest of the day was spent in a variety of meditations, exercises, lectures, discussions, tea breaks, and eating.

I wont lie, it is extremely difficult to enter a true mediation in which I attempted to quiet the mind and become “awake” to my body and spirit. Thousands of thoughts about work, life, stress, and expectations entered and demanded to be heard. We were told that these thoughts should be allowed to enter, but not to dwell on them. The practice is easier said then done. However, when one can control the mind, peace follows. One thing is for certain, it takes daily practice to achieve these goals.

Lunch was eaten in silence in a large kitchen. The food was vegetarian and beyond delicious. I had a thought while eating that if I was able to eat this good food every day, I would live to be old and healthy. The food was prepared by Vietnamese women that belonged to the “congregation” for lack of a better word. When we finished, we all cleaned up and washed the dishes together. I loved the sense of community and how everyone was only too happy to help each other with the daily tasks of upkeep. Even us, the outsiders, pulled together and helped as though we had spent years with this community. I believe if the world worked with this sort of love, we would be in a much better place.

When the day was ending, we all sat around in a circle and discussed our experiences and asked the Abbot advice about our daily struggles. I was amazed at how honest and open everyone acted and the hard and personal questions they asked. Tears flowed as people told their stories and sought answers for their many struggles. The best aspect of the whole meeting was the complete lack of judgment. All who gathered spoke, and none were turned away.

The main teachings of Buddha involve treating each living person and creature with the love and respect they deserve as sentient, and one day enlightened, beings. Compassion, Love, and Understanding are the cornerstones of this amazing religion and culture. The Buddhists believe that we must give up attachment and stop allowing negativity and fear govern our lives. If we achieve this, we will become enlightened.  I am very thankful for the experience.

 

Spencer

Abbot Tinh Man

Photo by Gabriel Christus/Photo Editor/Evergreen Newspapers
Thay Tinh Man hits the altar bell on Saturday Jan. 05, 2013 at Compassionate Dharma Cloud Monastery.

Make the Leap and Live in the Moment

Grape Creek Grade Creek

Hello Everyone,

Admittedly, it has been a while since I last wrote. I find myself going for long stretches of time between my writing. If I’m honest I think it has more to do with the fact that I am lazy rather than uninspired. I find there is constantly many subjects on my mind that I can write about, but usually they remain in the old thick noodle.

Today Kilah, Syd, and I went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We had a really good time and were able to really enjoy the day. The Sun was shining, breeze in the air, and not a care in the world. We finished the day with a good cup of white mocha at a local bookstore called Poor Richard’s. While I enjoyed my coffee I pondered on being able to enjoy life without worry. How is it that we can let so many trivial “problems” get in the way of our happiness? I realize that some people have legitimate things to worry about, but mine seem to pale in comparison when I put them under the microscope. To be fair, we are doing really well right now. I have a job on a historic train which I only work at four days a week. We made a decision to only work part time and enjoy our time in Colorado. We are actually making more money part time than we ever did working full time. It is the damnedest thing. The biggest problem I deal with in my life at the current moment is missing my family. However, we have been blessed with enough money to make visits home. We truly are so blessed in our current chapter of this life. I have been so conflicted over the past few months. In one hand I am in a beautiful place filled with endless things to do; on the other I miss my family something terrible. It has been hard dealing with this conundrum. However, today I finally realized how lucky and blessed I truly am. I have been given the opportunity to truly experience the beauty and magic of a special place in our world, free from many of the  worries and stresses that tend to get in the way of my happiness. I know that I will see my family and return to them, but I must remember to live in the now. It has taken a while to realize it, but I am slowly but surely making my way. I feel like we are always looking forward to tomorrow, the weekend, our next payday, our next vacation, or our next chapter in life. The grass always seems greener on the other side or in the next field we think we see. We need to slow down and enjoy the time we have been given in our current chapter. We need to love those we share our time with. We need to go on those long hikes and camping trips. We need to attend those social events and go to those poetry readings. We need to live like each day is a blessing,  because I’m pretty much convinced that it is! If you are reading this and think it is bullshit because your life sucks, get off your ass and change it. I would apologize for the vulgarity, but sometimes we need to be told bluntly. I know I needed it! We shape our lives and our destinies. If you hate your job, get another! If you hate where you live, move! I know you are telling yourself that it is not possible due to so many excuses. Well, I’m telling you it is!  I decided I wanted to experience life away from my comfort zone in a beautiful place. It was a hard decision, but sometimes that is exactly what it takes. A price must always be paid, and many decisions we make end up becoming a “double edged sword.” You might make the leap and you might fail, but at least you can say you tried your best. If that is truly the case, you will never fail. We must keep working toward our dreams and goals and never give up. Kilah always says, “if you say you want something and you never do it, you never really wanted it at all!” I think she has something there. Believe in yourself and take the leap. However, always remember to live in the now. We are all growing together. I hope you can learn from me as much as I learn from each of you. I love you all.

your brother,

Spencer

Love and Companionship

I believe that we all have the divine spirit of God within us. He forged our very being with the most powerful tool in the universe, Love. We all long for Love and all it has to offer. At least, what we consider it to be. We have taken the most powerful essence in creation and have brought it low by pairing it with lust, envy, and greed. No, we have actually forgotten what Love truly means. We have come to the conclusion that for us to be “happy” we must find someone to “love” us and that we can “love.” However, we never end up being happy because we don’t know the true meaning…or maybe we do. Maybe we do know what it means and we really don’t want it. In my experience of Love, it is a hard journey. It is the most wonderful and important aspect in all of life, but it is hard. However, we don’t want hard, we want easy and comfortable! We want “secure” and we want it to be our way. We don’t want hard, so in fact we don’t want love. When I met my lovely bride to be I sat down on the first date and told her that if we hit it off after dating, I wanted to marry her. She replied with the same and we proceeded to see if we could meet this life head on as one. I knew from that first day that it would become our reality. Neither of us had really dated before and we didn’t have any intention of getting married before we met. We always knew that If God had someone for the the other, He would bring us together. When I met my wife I saw adventure, passion, spirituality, honesty, beauty, and Love. I was a little shocked, because at the time I didn’t believe a person like her existed. I knew that together we could devote our lives to discovering Love and all that it had to offer. I knew it would be hard, but I knew it would be worth it. See, Love is not “happily ever after,” but then again, it most certainly is. We as individuals have very different ideas of what that actually looks like. In my experience it means being caring for the other person more than you care about yourself. It means loving yourself enough to have and experience the best in life. It means telling your spouse you love her when she is sleeping and can’t return the sentiment. It means long hard days dealing with overcoming insecurities, weakness, and fear. It means connecting with other souls, truly and honestly. It means spending time in nature and caring for and respecting the earth and her bounty. It means keeping the temple in which you reside clean and strong. It means listening to a story when nobody else will. It means living the abundant life. Do not settle for less than what you deserve. Do not lie to yourself that you are lowly and undeserving. Do not believe the lie that people are evil and it’s you against the world. Do not envy the love of others because you haven’t discovered it yet. I find that so many people get married or enter into relationships for the wrong reasons. We want to force a relationship with another person when we are not on the same playing field or planet. I understand that we all want companionship; but we have to be patient and have the right intentions. We have to want better for ourselves and want to grow. We should strive to love one another the way God has created us to do and the way He loves us. We are all eternal beings created by Love itself…all we have to do is realize it and act. Meditations at midnight.

Your brother,

Spencer Liles

The Age of Knowledge and The Age of Ignorance: We All Need a Good Dose of Humilty

Hello Friends,

Today I want to talk about truth, fact, and our obsession to always be right.  The sad thing is…we ALL know what is going on…or at least we think we do!  At one point in my life I was an extremely religious person. I held specific theological and dogmatic views about people, reality, and God. I put myself and God in a box and dwelt only there while simultaneously trying to convince  others that they needed to join me.  To this day I am still learning and growing and trying to keep my mind open to what God has to say and not of what man tries to convince me. However, sometimes I am still caught in debates about religion, politics, theories, and historical “facts.”  These debates get me nowhere and usually leave a bad taste in my mouth. I guess sometimes I am a glutton for punishment.  I know better than to argue(“debate”) with people when I know it’s not going to end well. We all have this drive to convince others we are right and that we know what we are talking about. We debate a laundry list of “facts” calling them truth. We are involved in multiple platforms of social media where we argue with each other endlessly. However, I have come to see this as very counterproductive and very unwise when trying to love people. A wise person will listen, think, and act accordingly. In my experience the truly wise among us do not offer outright advice or direction about aspects of life they know little about. If they do have knowledge of a particular subject they will usually try to lead us there in love and very subtly. I try my best to look to God for advice when trying to solve issues, that is when I am not blinded by my own pride and ignorance. Usually when I think I have a situation or problem figured out myself, I learn that I was completely off. It takes God to step in and say, “OK, now lets think about it this way or do this differently.” However, every “blue moon” I find myself debating away and trying to convince people of “facts” that I don’t even really believe myself. We all tend to do this for some reason. Today I caught myself debating a coworker about government, religion, and general ideas regarding people and their nature. My coworker and I have completely different belief systems and that did not play out well when I decided to ask a few questions. I truly respect this person and consider them very wise in may ways. My coworker made a few statements that I  considered to be ludicrous. I usually try my best to ignore these comments and move on about my life, but today I just felt like I had to say something. I tried to present  different views and ask questions regarding the authenticity of these “facts.” Well that was the wrong thing to do! By the end of the conversation I had been “put on trial.” My coworker started questioning the quality of  my college education, my “limited” life experience, and my “generational bias” because I tried to question some of their statements. I would say I held my own, but that provided me little to no consolation when it had ended. We left the discussion in a civilized manner, but I became disheartened. I am not the kind person that wants to argue another’s beliefs to the point of a ugly debate. I truly have nothing to prove! I just wanted this person think outside of their box. I  have been that person at one point, but not now. However, sometimes I  still fall in that regard simply by questioning and trying to grow. I have come to realize that people have very strong beliefs about specific issues that they are not willing to let go of easily! I have also realized that it is not my job to change them!  That is OK! We are here to love people not to convince them of our “truths.” If we indeed have something truly valuable to offer another person, I believe that God will take advantage and work through us. Anything that keeps me from loving my neighbor does not belong in my life. We must all learn to approach these situations in our lives with love, understanding, and patience. We are never going to convince people with a barrage of facts and theories than most of the time are continuously debated among scholars as it is. Father, I ask that we would enter these situations in our lives with humility, patience, and love. I pray that you work through us and provide genuine guidance in all these matters. Amen.

We must be aware of our own shortcomings and look to become better people with each passing day. Let us become less “knowledgeable” but continually grow in wisdom.

your brother,

Spencer

Image result for to be wise and humble

The Power and Importance of Relationship in Life

Hello dear friends,

I have been pondering a few aspects of life and I want to elaborate on my thought process. What is life? What is important in this short physical existence? Well the fact is that many people have many different answers to those questions. Religion would tell you that the most important aspect of life is to follow its tenets and rules so that one may have eternal life with a deity. Humanists might tell you that you should live a life by which you do not harm others and do your best to uphold certain ethics. Governments would say that you need to be a productive citizen and probably quote you JFK. I think there is truth to be had in all of those answers, but people tend to take one or the other to the extreme. I think the hardest for me to grasp is that a person is created to do a “job.” Please don’t misunderstand me, I think that all people have purpose, but that is completely different from many “careers” and work choices that people choose to  endure. Let me paint you a picture of my meaning. You are born in America, you go to school for the first quarter of your life and “learn” how to be an “adult” and do a “job.” You then work said job for 30-40 years if you are lucky and try your best not to get too sick during that time. You then retire and relax/travel for maybe 5-10 years while still trying to “stay afloat” with your health. You then die and your children continue the process. Now if this reality has not scared you yet, let us look at the specifics. In my experience most people that have depression, mental illness, and other deficiencies can trace their problems to their childhood. We hear about “daddy issues” or “mommy issues” like it is a common and accepted reality. Why does it have to be this way? Why not try to break this crazy self-destructive pattern? However, I am getting ahead of myself, let me bring it back a little. We go to “school” where we learn to be “good citizens.” We have trouble all through school with bullying, lack of interest, social anxiety, and outright rebellion in many cases. During this time our parents are working 24/7  and still dealing with the problems they faced as children while also trying to raise us. Now, let us pause here for a second. Many parents are so busy with their work that they tend to put their children on the back burner, if in fact they are on the burner at all. This tends to cause all sorts of problems in the family that linger throughout life. This is insane!!!!! Why on earth would we sacrifice what is most important to us for work and money? Well that is easy, we do it because in many cases our family is not or most valuable treasure. Now let me be clear, I understand that sometimes people must take jobs because they need to feed/clothe their family. However, we all should be working towards our passions in life instead of worrying about a lifestyle or the endless grind of greed. You might be stuck in a certain job for a few years, but that is fine if you work towards your real goals. However, nothing should come in the way of your family. Yeshua the Christ teaches us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves and love God with all we have. These two things would solve all the problems in existence if they were truly put in practice. The truth is all life is about, or should be about, relationship and loving others. We have relationships with the earth, the animals, our communities, and our families. Unfortunately, in most cases these relationships are not healthy. I truly believe that the causes of all of our “sin” and grief is due to our lack of true relationship. One major problem is that people do not know how to truly love! We as a people have forgotten what love means. I think there is only one antidote for this great affliction. I believe the first step is to develop a relationship with God. I know that sounds very cliche, but let’s think about it. If we cannot have a descent relationship with our creator and one who loves us above all others, how can we ever hope to improve our quality of life or the others around us? Once we have established a relationship with God, we then strive to recover from our sickness with each and every act that follows. We truly need to apply love to our every decision and thought process. Is this a loving action? Is that a loving thing to say?  If we apply love to every aspect of our lives we will win in the end! We should apply it to work, passion, creativity, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and all of our relationships. We all must strive to follow the teachings of Yeshua if we are to ever recover from our sickness. There is so much more I feel like I could say, but I will leave this here for now. It is a continuous journey, but we must be willing to take the first step and be vigilant.

your brother,

Spencer

 

Image result for Saint Augustine on love   since love grows

Image: quotefancy.com

The Faith of Abraham

Abraham’s “test” is one of the most beloved stories of the Jewish Scriptures. God tells Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, and he complies without any complaint. Once God witnesses Abraham’s trust He commands him to stop and offers a ram instead. We have all heard the story many times and it has been the theme for  many sermons regarding faith. However, do we ever truly apply the lesson to our lives?

Abraham walked with God and expressed absolute faith in  his creator. We all know (or claim) this to be true, but we have  not learned the lesson. I see people everyday that claim they trust in God, but do not  show it in their actions. I can say this without judgement because I have been guilty myself. God has proved to me time and time again that He is with me and leading me. When I have fallen he has picked me up. When I have been in anguish he has comforted me. When I have asked he has answered. Why then do we doubt? Why then do we continually worry and stress about our lives? I myself worry about issues all the time. I have to constantly remind myself that God is in control. I have come to the realization that I stress about aspects of my life that I am not giving up to God. Recently, I have been stressed about my career choices and the realization that the plan I have had for my life is very different from God’s. I know He will be revealing a great deal to me this year, and my job is to be prepared to receive. I feel that I have grown a great deal in this, but it takes continual work.  If we are open to His voice we will hear and act. He is always with us, and He will help when we call. I have been a very stubborn pupil, but I have peace where I had worry. I have faith where I had doubt. I have not had the privilege of physically walk with God, but He moves in my life everyday when I am open. We all should look to the example of Abraham and follow God in faith. In my experience thus far, it has made all the difference.

your brother,

Spencer

 

walk-by-faith

Photo: http://puttingonthenew.com/2015/04/12/we-walk-by-faith/

 

Morning Thoughts #1 

I was reminded this past weekend how important family and friends are to me. I have been married for a little over six months, and I have already learned many lessons. First,  marriage is is one of the greatest gifts God grants us. When we enter into a soul bond with another person and with God, we set up the greatest support system that we can experience in his life. When done correctly, (a constant work in progress) we are able to experience a great deal of spiritual growth and experience a form of Love that is very rewarding. Secondly, family and friends are vital to our continual growth. The support system one receives from a group of people who love them is such an overarching blessing. I personally do not know where I would be in life if it had not been for my crazy and beautiful family. Sometimes Kilah and I talk about moving away and living in this place or that, but we always try to remind ourselves how blessed we are in this time being able to live near our family. A family in our community lost one of their loved ones this weekend, and it weighed heavy on my heart. I was reminded how important family is and how much they mean to me. We all need the support system when we are down, when we are going through hard times, and when we are at the end of our rope. We need to always be there for our loved ones and make sure they have the support they need. Let us never take anyone or anything for granted! So go and hug those you love and love them with all of your heart. Carpe Diem! 

Your brother,       Spencer